As I’ve said before, the English and Americans do have their differences.
One day, when I was 89-years-old and recovering in the hospital from knee surgery, I noticed an older gentleman using a walker who was passing by my room. Thinking he had the same operation as me I called out, “Looking good!”
He replied with what he thought was the “V” for victory sign. Unfortunately, what he gave me was quite the opposite. So I smiled and said to him, “You probably don’t realize it, but you just gave me the English equivalent of the American one-fingered salute!” (We call it the ‘gentle insult.’)
Startled by my response, he hurried on his way.
The next day, the same gentleman passed by my room, only this time he stopped and gave me a “thumbs up” sign. That made me laugh.
Legend has it that the two-fingered salute started in Medieval times. When English archers were captured, the enemy cut off their two fingers so they could no longer launch their arrows.
So when an able-bodied archer faced the enemy they showed their two fingers, and yelled a couple of choice words to show they were ready for battle.
I’ve often wondered about the origins of the one-fingered salute. Could it have been born in the Wild West as a result of battles between gunslingers?
Probably not, because that’s the wrong finger.
It doesn’t matter. Both salutes are a handy gesture (no pun intended) when you can’t think of the right words to say!
Ta ta for now!
This is another post in an occasional series from my dear Aunt Doris, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 94. This article was originally published on 22 Feb 2012.
First Gen American says
I love aunt doris. What a gift it is to have her stories shared for all to hear. I can see where you get your sense of humor from Len.
The old man probably thought he was being hit on. I hear that in the nursing homes, the women far outnumber the men, so they get a lot of attention from the ladies.
Yep, it pays to live long.
As a British native, I can confirm that Doris would be a hit here, too.
You did it again Aunt Doris! What a great way to start my day. I so love your stories. Please keep them coming!
You learn something new every day. I guess I’ll be more careful with my hand gestures the next time I find myself in London and I want 2 orders of fish and chips.
What do you think about Adele and M.I.A. giving the one-fingered version of the two finger salute on television lately? Refreshing or obnoxious?
It’s funny how insults evolve over time! That guys probably had no idea.
Watching Red Dwarf in the early 1990’s taught me the two-finger salute, when occasionally a skutter (a one-armed maintenance ‘bot) would give Arnold Rimmer a richly deserved salute. 🙂
Another unintentional insult (I think this is still true today): If you are in Italy, don’t pick at your teeth with your thumb. You just might be “biting your thumb” at someone who will take offense.
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
I do bite my thumb, sir.
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.
Funny, how same gesture gets interpreted differently in different countries.
Doable Finance says
The salute of two fingers can be interpreted differently in different societies.
Rita Senkowski says
Have read aunt Doris’s stories and they are great, to bad she did not write a book.
you can learn a lot from her and she is quite a story teller.. Love to read good wisdom, we have so little of it today. Rest in peace dear lady, hope she is telling her stories to the angels. Rita S
There are many such photos of Churchill giving the Germans the two finger salute. You can even buy them on coffee mugs.
I miss the stories of your Aunt Doris, Len. She was more alive than most people will ever be. She told me her secret was not eating fruitcake.
Len Penzo says
She was an amazing woman who was full of life!
(And I’m sure avoiding fruitcake didn’t hurt.)